Cycling cul­tu­re in Oulu was shoc­king at first, but now Tama­ra Louis is biking eve­ryw­he­re

Tama­ra Louis, 30, is an arc­hi­tec­tu­ral desig­ner living in Oulu and wor­king at Uki Arc­hi­tects. She came to Oulu from Rus­sia in Sep­tem­ber 2012. She has a double degree in Civil Engi­nee­ring and is stu­dying Arc­hi­tec­tu­re. Oulu Talent Hub inter­viewed Tama­ra Louis about her thoughts on living and wor­king in Oulu.

What do you think about Oulu?

My first impres­sions about Oulu were very dif­fe­rent from how I expe­rience the city now. Pro­bably because I have myself chan­ged a lot too as well as Oulu. The first shock was when I saw people biking all the time. People bike here in Oulu eve­ryw­he­re: to work, school and even par­ties. It was weird. It doesn´t mat­ter how old you are, or what your sta­tus is, eve­ry­one is biking.

I was a girl from Rus­sia, whe­re at that time bikes were just equal to a sport, not to trans­por­ta­tion. In the begin­ning, I said that I will never bike like others. But soon enough I chan­ged my mind up until now I con­ti­nue biking all the time, even in the win­ter.

Anot­her cul­tu­re shock was at the uni­ver­si­ty, when I found out that in Fin­land we always address to others even stran­gers or older people with “sinä” (= singular/informal you). In Rus­sia, the cul­tu­re is tru­ly dif­fe­rent and res­pect­ful­ly we should call new people as well older and even just col­lea­gues with “Te “ (= for­mal You).

It may seem like a small dif­fe­rence but belie­ve it or not, it does take time for adjust­ment. I think it is repre­sen­ting equa­li­ty and a small hie­rarc­hy ove­rall in Fin­nish cul­tu­re and an infor­mal way of com­mu­nica­tion. Wea­ring woo­len socks wit­hout shoes at the office and uni­ver­si­ty is part of this relaxed way of life, and I must say I do enjoy it.

What do you think about the wor­king life in Oulu?

What I real­ly like is the work sche­du­le here. Many offices start the day at 8 a.m. and finish it at 4 p.m., which allows emplo­yees to have space for fami­ly and hob­bies. Because the dis­tances in Oulu are not so big, you don’t have to spend that much time on the road. I apprecia­te this a lot.

It is also valued, that you have free time and the pos­si­bi­li­ty to reco­ver from work stress and so on. To do that, many com­pa­nies try to endor­se tho­se acti­vi­ties with dif­fe­rent kinds of bonus sys­tems. For example, the com­pa­ny, I work at, gives emplo­yees twice a year a special bonus card with a cer­tain sum, which you may use only for cul­tu­ral, sports or mas­sa­ge acti­vi­ties.

Tama­ra Louis beca­me a biker in Oulu.

Ori­gi­nal­ly the main rea­son for moving to Fin­land was a rela­tions­hip mat­ter. Comple­men­ting my Rus­sian Diplo­ma with Euro­pean Degree see­med to be a good option to start a life in a new count­ry, so I have applied to stu­dy here.

I have noticed qui­te soon that I like living in Oulu, so I deci­ded to stay. To be honest I have almost left back to my home count­ry because it was qui­te hard for me to get a job in Fin­land as a foreig­ner, when I just arri­ved as I didn’t speak Fin­nish at all. I must admit, it was kind of depres­sing not to be able to get any job, whi­le you have a decent degree.

At the same time, whi­le I was searc­hing for jobs in Oulu, I applied for a few posi­tions in Rus­sia – and voilá – I was invi­ted for inter­views to all of them. Here, in Oulu, most of the time, pro­bably 99 % of the com­pa­nies were not even res­pon­ding to my applica­tions.

You may ima­gi­ne my fee­lings: to pack my stuff and go back home and build a career, whe­re I could have at least an oppor­tu­ni­ty to do it. Well, as you can guess, I didn´t lea­ve in the end. I kept searc­hing for open posi­tions across the inter­net. I was applying again and again, and actual­ly, I did get one inter­view in the aca­de­mic field in Hel­sin­ki, but it didn´t work out eit­her – luc­ki­ly.

How to get a job in Oulu?

As a tip for job see­kers, if you don´t get anyt­hing through vacancies web­si­tes, try to go to the web­pa­ge of Business­Oulu, whe­re you can get a lis­ting of com­pa­nies accor­ding to their cate­go­ry. The­re I found lots of civil engi­nee­ring and arc­hi­tec­tu­re com­pa­nies and I have star­ted to send open applica­tions to many of them.

Though my degree is in Civil Engi­nee­ring, I was pas­sio­na­te about Arc­hi­tec­tu­re, so I tried to enter this field too. To a big surpri­se, I got a reply from Uki Arc­hi­tects, which was on top of my list of inte­rest, and I star­ted my interns­hip soon after.

After the interns­hip period I had a small break due to per­so­nal issues and I came back again the­re for a year cont­ract. After my next break on mater­ni­ty lea­ve, I came back for a per­ma­nent posi­tion the­re again.

Nowa­days I look back at the times when I couldn’t get jobs anyw­he­re else and I am glad it went this way. I feel myself real­ly luc­ky to get exact­ly in this com­pa­ny, whe­re I am now. I love the office and we have a won­der­ful and friend­ly atmosp­he­re.

Oulu is a per­fect envi­ron­ment for fami­lies, says Tama­ra Louis.

My col­lea­gues are very sup­por­ti­ve and had the patience to help me to learn Fin­nish lan­gua­ge, whi­le they could easi­ly switch to English. Step by step I star­ted to get more res­pon­sible tasks and now I alrea­dy lead some pro­jects. Also this year I have star­ted stu­dying Arc­hi­tec­tu­re to grow pro­fes­sio­nal­ly out of Engi­neer and get even more inte­res­ting tasks in the futu­re.

All in all, if you would like to come and live in Oulu, you have to search for emplo­yers and com­pa­nies in your field on the inter­net and social media. Even if they don’t have open posi­tions, you can always send an open applica­tion to show that you are moti­va­ted, just like I did. I guess my key to success, in the end, was high moti­va­tion for that exact com­pa­ny too, I knew what pro­jects they were doing and they matc­hed my inte­rest.

Even if you don’t speak Fin­nish, it is good to show you are eager to learn it – even if the com­pa­ny com­mu­nica­tes in English. As I men­tio­ned ear­lier, when I came to Oulu, I could not speak even one word in Fin­nish.

How to get into the Fin­nish lifes­ty­le?

One of the posi­ti­ve sides of Oulu is that the city is very clo­se to the natu­re. You don’t need to tra­vel much to get to the forest. I have just a few hundred meters to walk to the nea­rest litt­le forest.

Oulu and Fin­land ove­rall pro­vi­de a varie­ty of natu­re acti­vi­ties and sports oppor­tu­ni­ties. I have star­ted trail run­ning, which is a big part of my life now.

In my opi­nion, Oulu is a per­fect envi­ron­ment for fami­lies, as well for inter­na­tio­nal ones too. I have a five-year-old daugh­ter and I am hap­py to feel she is not con­si­de­red as a foreig­ner. Her mul­ticul­tu­ral background is taken most posi­ti­ve­ly.

She is a mul­ti­lin­gual child and going to the munici­pal dayca­re is not a problem at all. Whi­le none of us parents speak Fin­nish to her, she lear­ned the lan­gua­ge at the day care with a good sup­port from her teac­hers the­re. I have heard simi­lar feed­back from my friends who have a simi­lar situa­tion as us.

Here you can easi­ly inte­gra­te into the socie­ty if you want to. Here are dif­fe­rent clubs and com­mu­ni­ties, for example, I am par­tici­pa­ting in Junior Cham­ber Inter­na­tio­nal, which gives oppor­tu­ni­ties to meet new people and deve­lop per­so­nal and work life skills.

The who­le year round the­re are some nice fes­ti­vals and inte­res­ting events in Oulu, one of them is a unique event – the Air Gui­tar World Cham­pions­hips.

Tama­ra Louis tells her sto­ry on a video:

Oulu Talent Hub

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